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In the annals of tech history, few names evoke nostalgia quite like Apple’s Macintosh Performa series. Launched back in 1996, the Macintosh Performa 6400 was a groundbreaking personal computer that pushed the boundaries of what a home computer could be.
While its contemporaries were often dismissed as “low-end,” the 6400 emerged as a powerhouse with cutting-edge features that belied its era. In this throwback to Apple’s past, we delve into the intriguing story of the Macintosh Performa 6400 and why it still commands respect among retro tech enthusiasts.
In an era when computers were still finding their footing, the Macintosh Performa 6400 stood out with its robust specifications. Buyers could choose between a 180 MHz or 200 MHz PowerPC 603e processor, a generous 16 MB or 32 MB of RAM, and hard drive options ranging from 1.6 GB to 2.4 GB. Equipped with an 8x CD-ROM drive and a 1.44 MB floppy drive, the 6400 was a multimedia marvel in its time.
While the Macintosh Performa series had often been critiqued for their perceived lack of power, the 6400 boldly countered these stereotypes. With its new tower case design and enhanced processing capabilities, it left critics speechless. It was ready to take on mid-range Power Macs and give them a run for their money.
One of the standout features of the Macintosh Performa 6400 was its user-friendly design. Traditional tower computers of the era often intimidated users when it came to hardware expansion. Not the 6400. With its logic board that easily slid out, a SCSI-ready expansion bay and two 7-inch PCI slots, it offered one of the easiest expansion experiences of its time.
Adding to its allure was the possibility of installing Apple’s TV/FM Tuner card and a Performa-based video expansion card. These installations were a breeze, underscoring the 6400’s commitment to user convenience.
Innovation was the name of the game with the Macintosh Performa 6400. It was the first Macintosh computer to feature SRS (Sound Retrieval System Surround Sound) technology. This groundbreaking audio tech transformed games, audio CDs, and even system beeps into immersive experiences. Its 3D audio effects were truly ahead of their time.
What’s more, the 6400 boasted a built-in bass subwoofer, a feature that set it apart from its peers. When paired with external speakers or a monitor with built-in speakers, it seamlessly delivers bass-heavy audio. For those without external speakers, it still excelled at providing balanced sound. The headphone jack and volume control were conveniently located on the front panel, although the subwoofer balance control could be a stretch for shorter users.
The Macintosh Performa 6400 didn’t just impress with its hardware; it came bundled with an extensive array of software that catered to home users’ needs. From Claris Works to Quicken and the Apple Internet Connection Kit, it left no stone unturned in offering a comprehensive software package. The included CD-ROM titles further enriched the computing experience, making it a one-stop solution for a variety of needs.
While the Macintosh Performa 6400 was a star in its own right, it had a relatively short life span. Just a year after its debut in 1996, it was discontinued on August 1, 1997. However, it remains a cherished piece of technology history, serving as a reminder of Apple’s past and the evolution of personal computing.
Today, 27 years after its initial release, the Performa 6400 continues to captivate retro tech enthusiasts. Its enduring legacy is a testament to Apple’s commitment to innovation and user-friendly design. While it may have been a product of its time, its impact is still felt in the world of computing.
In retrospect, the Macintosh Performa 6400 was not just a computer; it was a glimpse into the future of personal computing. With its blend of power, user-friendliness, and innovation, it set a high bar that still resonates with technology enthusiasts today. So, if you happen to stumble upon one of these retro marvels, consider yourself lucky—you’ve discovered a piece of computing history.
Macintosh Performa 6400 Details
|Introduced||August 7, 1996|
|Discontinued||July 12, 1996 (180 MHz)|
August 1, 1997 (200 MHz)
|Order Number||M5167LL/A (180 MHz)|
M5168LL/A (200 MHz)
M5609LL/A (200 MHz Video Editing Edition)
|Dimensions||16” H x 7.8” W x 16.9” D|
40.64 cm H x 19.81 cm W x 42.92 cm D
Mac Performa 6400 Tech Specs
|Processor Speed||180 MHz|
|Number of Cores||1|
|System Bus||40 MHz|
|Cache||32 KB L1|
256 KB L2
Storage & Media
|Media||1 – 1.44 MB Floppy|
1 – 8x CD-ROM
1 – Zip 100 (Optional)
|Built-in Memory||16 MB|
|Maximum Memory||136 MB|
|Memory Slots||2 – 168 pin DIMM|
|Minimum Speed||70 ns|
|Graphics Memory||1 MB|
|Display Connection||1 – DB-15|
|Expansion Slots||2 – 7″ PCI|
1 – Comm II
1 – Video I/O
1 – TV
|Hard Drive Interface||IDE|
|SCSI||1 – DB-25|
|Audio In||1 – 3.5-mm analog input jack|
|Audio Out||2 – 3.5-mm analog output jack|
1 – Built-in subwoofer
1 – Built-in speaker
|Display||1 – DB-15|
|Original OS||System Software 7.5.3|
|Maximum OS||Mac OS 9.1|
|Backup Battery||4.5 V Alkaline|
|Maximum Continuous Power||220 W|
Further Reading and References
- Macintosh Performa 6400/180: Technical Specifications – Apple Support
- Macintosh Performa 6400/200: Technical Specifications – Apple Support
- Apple Macintosh Performa 6400/200 – The Centre for Computing History
- Macintosh Performa 6400 Review – MyMac
- The Macintosh Performa 6400/200: Solidity, Versatility and Economy – The New York Times
- Performa 6400 – MacGurus
- Performa/Power Macintosh 6400 and 6500 Series Service Source (PDF) – Apple Repair Manuals
Disclaimer: The data presented in this article is under continuous development and has been manually collected from various sources based on their availability. The author of this article may revise this dataset as additional research is conducted and reviewed. Please note that the information is provided “as is” and “as available” without express or implied warranties. The author cannot be held responsible for any omissions, inaccuracies, or errors in the published information. Any warranties relating to this information are hereby disclaimed.
Last updated: September 17, 2023